“All newcomers to Canada receive the healthcare they require, unstintingly, and without judgment of their circumstances”
In 1999, 18-year-old Aisha showed revealed something shocking in Canada. Many refugees and newcomers (including children) were denied access to medical treatment. As a child Aisha fled from war before arriving in Toronto. Denied health coverage 5 years later, Aisha almost died. CCRIHC believes access to medical care is a human right and helps to ensure it. Canada adopted this humanitarian right when it implemented universal healthcare many years ago. In the case of Aisha, some questioned, “How can this happen in Canada, a nation of newcomers?” It was an affront to our healthcare values.
Gaps in the delivery of healthcare stubbornly persist. Caring for 30 uninsured patients during evening volunteer clinics is routine. The numbers seeking care keep growing. Why? Worsening world conflict, poverty, and famine. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees reports 300 million refugees and displaced migrants on the run worldwide – the highest number since UN began keeping records. Advocacy to change policies denying healthcare continues for New Canadians.
“To provide humanitarian medical treatment and assistance to those new to Canada who find themselves medically uninsured“
CCRIHC clinics are volunteer-driven. An interdisciplinary health professional team gives time, skills, and sometimes their own funding. Their purpose is purely altruistic borne in Canada’s humanitarian values and a desire to improve their Canada. They are dedicated to helping refugees and immigrants that come to the clinic to get the medical help they need. They do not judge patients’ immigration status although >90% are in Canada with permission, or ability to pay. They recruit others to volunteer their services and equipment.
In 2005, a team of dentists volunteered, launching a dental operatory to provide free dental care to working poor Canadians who have no money for dental care. In May of 2017, three new dental chairs and operatories were added in the Urban Dental Clinic. Now thousands are being saved from unnecessary pain, disease, and disfigurement. These efforts annually save hundreds of thousands of dollars for Canada’s healthcare system – through care in the community, not hospital ERs.
Why we exist
The volunteer clinics were built for vulnerable communities. Dedicated Canadian health professionals needed a place to volunteer to help uninsured/underinsured refugees when illness and health difficulties halted their new start in Canada. Medical care for all conditions is offered. Children receive vaccinations and medial care so they can attend school. Pregnant refugee women turned away by clinics and doctors, receive pre-natal care. These solutions challenge the healthcare status quo and push the limits to make care happen. Immigration is Canada’s strength, heritage, and future. It is why Canada has succeeded. It is the refugee’s mission to get their children out of harm’s way. When they are here it is our job to treat them and support their Canadian progress when health issues stand in their way. If there is no clinic that will do that, then it is our job to build one.
Who can look the other way? A 12-year-old refugee girl fleeing for her life from Africa was stricken with diabetes, a month after arriving in Canada. Denied health coverage, Mariam fell through the healthcare cracks and then fell literally through the clinic doors. She was within hours of dying, living in a homeless refugee shelter. Unlike other Canadian children Mariam’s care was denied. Her dad took her to a walk-in clinic but could not afford the up front payment. Weak, drowsy, and not eating they left without receiving treatment. Shelter staff sent them to CCRIHC that same evening. Volunteer physicians and staff diagnosed childhood onset diabetes. Mariam was rushed to the hospital, where she spent 10 days recovering including 4 days in ICU. Mariam has mastered injecting her own Insulin now. She is back in school, making new friends and on her way to realizing her Canadian dreams. Mariam’s father was billed $26,000 by the hospital. CCRIHC lobbied the government for bill forgiveness. Mariam misses her mother who is stranded in Ethiopia. This story is all too common.
It surprises and troubles most Canadians to learn that hundreds of thousands of newcomers to Canada struggle without healthcare coverage. One in four is a child, like Mariam. Some are refugee claimants. Others are immigrants waiting for provincial healthcare eligibility. Many have returned home due to untreated illness. Still others wait years for humanitarian, family reunification, and other applications to be heard. Others are Canadian citizens. While they wait, almost all work – often for less than minimum wage. Perhaps you know some of them? The child sitting beside yours in school? Or someone putting the new roof on your home? Maybe they serve you coffee, or lunch in a restaurant. They clean your mother’s nursing home. They are crossing guards. They are house and hospital cleaners but they can’t afford healthcare.
When do they become “Canadian enough” to receive healthcare in Canada?
Some have died directly as a result of being denied and waiting for access to care. Coming to Canada should not be a health risk. When fleeing for their lives, Canada sent them doctors, nurses, and medicine. Shouldn’t we do as well when they arrive here as well? Our donors have been with CCRIHC and the refugees every step of the way. When Mariam was in Africa, Doctors Without Borders provided physicians, nurses, and medicine. The CCRIHC family gives Mariam a fighting chance in Canada.
In 1999, when Aisha was 18 she turned to a Toronto area hospital for life saving help, the Emergency room turned her away.
Aisha’s father had sent for his 12 year old daughter when war ravaged their country. Children were dying.
A medical crisis threatened her life. The hospital wanted $350 before treating her – money Aisha did not have.
Aisha collapsed 2 hours later in the ER waiting room, in Canada.
Her $5000 bill ended her nursing school journey.
What we saw shocked us. How could this happen in Canada?
Our research then and since reveal that hundreds of thousands of Aisha’s are living and working in Canada who are not Canadian enough to receive healthcare.
If was Aisha’s fathers job to get his daughter out of harm’s was, and Aisha’s job to get through school and try to become a Canadian nurse, then when she was sick, it was our job to treat her.
And if there was no place that would do that, it was our job to build one.
We held our first free clinics from a donated church basement in Toronto.
ADDRESSING HEALTH POVERTY AND HEALTH INSECURITY IN NEW CANADIANS
Each year, CCRIHC’s volunteers provide more than $1 million in direct medical and dental care to New Canadians – care that the system turns away. When reduced ER visits and hospitalizations are considered the savings are higher. Three new volunteer dental suites are now operational. Working impoverished Canadians turn to ERs in desperation.
Since 1999, CCRIHC has saved Canada’s healthcare system over $20 million (est.) – enough to provide 150,000 patients with a family doctor for a year. CCRIHC has recorded over 40,000 medical and dental visits and has treated 13,000 refugees from over 120 countries.
|Family Doctors||16, 2000||$4.9 Million|
|Dentists||10, 000||$5.5 Million|
|Specialists||1, 200||$450 Thousand|
|Nurses||22, 000||$1.1 Million|
|Chiropractic / Injury||1, 500||$75 Thousand|
|Health Admin||45, 000||$1.8 Million|
|Clinic Operations||453, 000||$6.4 Million|
|Medication Donations||4 Years||$210 Thousand|
|Hospital Diversion||–||$2.5 Million|
|Public Health & Public Safety||–||$2.25 Million|
|Research Volunteers||1500||$100 Thousand|
For Almost 2 Decades,
we’ve welcomed refugees and immigrant from all over the world.
Our Staff & Volunteers
Our inter professional volunteer team of 50 doctors, dentists, nurses, nurse practitioners, chiropractors & community support workers donate more than their time and skills. They donate financially to maintain The Canadian Centre for Refugee and Immigrant HealthCare and our medical and dental clinics. Each year over ONE MILLION dollars is donated in direct health care, and through fundraising to provide care and support to uninsured newcomers and Canada’s health care system.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
- Dr. Paul Caulford
- Dr. Lubna Tirmizi
- Dr. Ritika Goel
- Sumathy Rahunathan
- Liberty Andaya
- Robert McKinnon
- Terry Brazill – Community Advocate
- Dr. Catherine Chalin – University of Toronto
- Robert McKinnon – Partner at Tubular Steel
Join us now & make an impact!
Current support needs
- Family Physicians, Nurse Practitioners
- Diabetic Educators and Nurses.
- Dentists, Dental Assistants, Dental Hygienists
- Admin (Bookkeeping, EA, Nursing Admin, Care Navigation, Computer Supports, etc.)